America's Greenest Restaurants of 2011

Top-ranked eco-friendly eateries from the Green Restaurant Association

With Earth Day approaching on April 22nd, restaurants nationwide are looking to tout their green initiatives. For diners looking to keep their environmental footprint in check while eating out it can be tough to find the truly eco-friendly spots. The Green Restaurant Association is there to help. 

With the wide array of tips and tactics available to restaurants trying to boost their environmental consciousness, the GRA is dedicated to creating easy and sustainable solutions for eateries. According to Michael Oshman, Executive Director of the GRA, “What works is creating a system that restaurants can go through and setting up a maintenance system for them to follow after certification.”

Restaurants going through the certification process must be able to meet guidelines across specific environmental categories — including water efficiency, waste reduction and recycling, sustainable food, energy, disposables, and chemical and pollution reduction. 

The GRA has created a stars system based on how many points each restaurant scores across various categories. Two-star certified restaurants must have a minimum of 100 points, 175 points for three stars, and 300 for four stars. Currently, only one restaurant, The Grey Plume in Omaha, Neb., has received the coveted four-star certification. Restaurants from Mario Batali and Rick Bayless as well as corporations including Hearst and Organic Valley have received three stars from the GRA. 

Diners can use the GRA site’s dining guide to search for green-certified restaurants by cuisine, location, and star rating. The guide even breaks down rating into points awarded for each category.

Click here for America's Greenest Restaurants of 2011 Slideshow. 

Click here for all of our Earth Day coverage.

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Non-vegetarian restaurants should not be considered eco-friendly no matter how much composting they do. Look up how much land and water it takes to support a single cow or pig, not to mention the waste produced. If that land and water was converted to plant production, we could feed the world.

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